Wednesday, February 12, 2020

New Balance FuelCell TC Multi Tester Review: Deluxe, Soft and Bouncy, Fast Carbon Plated Trainer Racer

Article by Jacob Brady, Derek Li, Peter Stuart, Sally Reiley, Jeff Beck, and Sam Winebaum

New Balance FuelCell TC ($200)
Estimated Weight:: men's 9.15 oz / 259 g(US9)   women's 7.8 oz / 221 g(US8)
Samples: men’s: US8.5: 8.89 oz / 252 g (248g left, 255 g right), US 12 10.8oz / 308g
   women’s: US8: 7.8 oz/ 221 g
Stack Height: 36mm heel / 26 mm forefoot
Offset: 10mm
Available 2/14/2020. $200

Jacob: The running shoe industry has seen dramatic innovation in recent years. The distance racing flat has been largely replaced by the modern racer: a high-stack shoe with a light, soft, and bouncy midsole, as well as a plate (usually carbon) to reduce vibration and direct energy. Nike defined this category with the release of the ZoomX Vaporfly 4% and the ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% is currently leading it. The NEXT% and similar variants, such as the 4%, have caused records to fall, including the men’s and women’s marathon world records (Eluid Kipchoge, 2018 Berlin Marathon; Brigid Kosgei, 2019 Chicago Marathon). There are dozens of other striking statistics with the majority of the fastest marathon times ever run in a Vaporfly variant.

Understandably, other shoe companies are following the trend, producing both trainers and racers with carbon or nylon plates and thick slabs of foam. These include the Nike Zoom Fly (heavier, training-oriented version of the 4%/NEXT%), Hoka Carbon X and Carbon Rocket, the upcoming Saucony Endorphin Pro, Skechers Speed Elite and Brooks Hyperion Elite. New Balance dipped their toes into the plate + super foam realm in 2019 with the plated FuelCell 5280 mile-racer and the FuelCell Rebel, a multi-purpose tempo and racing shoe, but neither were intended to capture the dramatically cushioned feel or effortless cruising ride of the NEXT%, 4%, or even Zoom Fly.

The FuelCell TC is New Balance’s first attempt at the max-cushion plated racer/trainer. It boasts a huge stack of very soft and bouncy FuelCell foam as well as a full-length carbon plate. Can it compete with the NEXT% and the others? Is it even meant to? Let’s find out.

Peter: It’s carbon plated soft foam season!! Yay. NB jumps into the fray and releases this beautiful, sleek looking carbon-plated beauty built on a bed of Fuel Cell foam. So where does it fit in to the new crop of racers? Let’s see!

Derek: Some of my NB sponsored friends have been spotted in the prototype since November so I was definitely excited to try this shoe. It’s always hard to predict how a shoe will feel based on pictures, but I’ve had some good luck with NB’s recent offerings so I was optimistic that this shoe would impress. The amazing thing about an Olympic year are  all the new racers coming to market so really we are spoilt for choice now. 
Sam: New Balance’s marketing says the TC is bulit to maximize your mileage and be a “training companion” with the outsole intended to ensure that “your experience stays the same from “long run to race day”. With a weight slightly over 9 oz./ 255 grams,  it seems on the surface that the TC is slotted to be more trainer than racer, yet here we have a carbon plate which generally, no matter the cushion, tends to focus the ride and use on racing in feel.  
So what is the TC? The combination of plate and soft to the touch FuelCell foam was intriguing. My instinct was that it was a stabilized and more dynamic FuelCell Propel: a soft bouncy shoe that I had trouble directing but found great for easier runs.  The weight told me that it was more trainer than pure racer.

See Reviewer Bios here
Jacob/Derek : Comfortable and accommodating upper
Jacob/Sally/Sam/Jeff: “Effortless” feel encourages speed
Jacob/Sally/Sam/Jeff: Very fun to run in
Jacob/Sam/Derek/Jeff/Sally: Soft and bouncy ride with high energy return well directed by a carbon plate
Sally/Sam: super comfortable TTS fit, good heel hold, generous toe box 
Peter: looks great, bouncy midsole, fun.

Jacob/Derek/Jeff/Sam: Weight prevents it from contending with true racing shoes
Jacob/Sally: Loose forefoot fit
Sally: top edge of tongue digs in initially, resolved after break in period
Peter: Tongue creeps into shoe, foot is not as locked down as I’d like in a racer
Jeff: Heel protrudes too high, causing some irritation
Sam: While not noticed on the run, I wish it was lighter. 
Sam: On the heavy side for its lofty price.

First Impressions and Fit
Jacob: I knew as soon as I opened the box that the TC was going to be something special. They’re exactly what I’d expect from a modern racer; a big slab of soft midsole with a thin, minimal upper. The sleek black and white colorway with an iridescent midsole—something I’ve never seen before—looks sharp. The sockliner has the only color on the upper; a striking blue and red in the forefoot that can be seen through the thin upper mesh.

When I lifted the TC out of the box I noted they were heavier than expected so I quickly weighed them, curious how they compared to the Carbon X and NEXT%. At 308g for my US Men's 12, they’re lightweight considering the massive amount of foam, but with the NEXT% coming in at 226g and the Carbon X at 272g (both my sample US Men’s 12 as well), they’re not even in the same class. They’re comparable to the Zoom Fly FK, which in my size is nearly the same weight.

Slipping them on, I was immediately reminded of the 4%/NEXT% underfoot. I haven’t experienced that depth of soft, bouncy cushioning anywhere else. I can feel the plate as well, just standing around, and while quite rigid in hand they feel a bit extreme on-foot due to the soft foam. This is reminiscent of my first time trying on the 4%, especially with the feel of the heel. In the 4%, this feeling disappears while on the run.

The upper is soft, unstructured through the mid/forefoot, and comfortable. It is very accommodating and close to too loose, but the flared heel (which I liked on the FuelCell Propel and Beacon v2) has a bit of rigidity and the overall foothold is good. It fits true to size but is amply wide and plush, at the expense of a precise, locked-in race-fit.

I had a planned group run later in the day, but when I received the TC I couldn’t wait to try them out so I decided to take them for a couple miles around the neighborhood. I ended up descending and running an 18:16 5k (not something I do every day) right out of my front door—quite an unexpected first run. 

Peter: NB knows how to put together a shoe. That’s for sure. These TC look great and fast just sitting in the box. Materials are top notch, it’s a good looking shoe and all of the proportions look right on. Even though there’s a huge slab of foam there, it doesn’t look like a moon boot. Fit for me is a little bit problematic---but also depends on how you’re thinking about the shoe. If you’re primarily thinking of it as a racer, then the toebox seems too big and the overall foot hold is a little bit loose. If you’re thinking about it as a trainer/tempo shoe, the more accomodating upper is perfect. On first step in they feel great. Bouncy as a 4% and a little unwieldy. It will be interesting to see how they do out on the roads. 

Derek: The shoe looks quite simple on first glance, but if you check closely, the midsole has a silvery sheen to it, and the upper is incredibly thin and breathable. The step in feel is snug without being constricting and the lace tension is very easy to dial in. No heel slippage. The “squeeze” test of the midsole confirms it is easily as soft if not softer than the midsole of the Next%. Standing in the shoe, the softness and springiness of the foam is immediately evident as I rock between the heel and toes, reminding me a bit of how that very first step in felt when I first stepped in the OG Ice Blue Vaporfly 4%, with the main difference being a flatter feel (no forward tipping) and wider more stable platform. I was actually surprised at the weight on the scale as the shoe doesn’t really feel heavy once you wear it. True to size, easy fit. All systems go!
Jeff: Whoa. It’s not hard to see the direct evolution/heritage from the FuelCell Rebel - just with more cushion and an actual plate. My pair is a half-size up 11, and the fit suffers slightly from that, especially in the midfoot. I have a full thumb’s width from the end of the my toe to the end of the shoe, but the upper is borderline sloppy, regardless of how much I crank down the laces. I would stick with a true-to-size purchase, and adjust expectations. You could race half to full marathons in this shoe, but that doesn’t seem like its best use. Instead relish a top notch well-cushioned fast trainer.

Sam: Sleek and modern looking in white with the lace and upper rear collars black this is a great looking design which makes a stark color contrast statement without shouting. I am glad the color scheme was not the opposite but do find they get dirty quickly.
The fit is true to size and matches the training companion marketing with great rear and mid foot hold and a fairly relaxed but secure front of the shoe with a soft but present toe bumper raising height up front. I do find them a touch short but this has not been an issue.
There are no overlays or underlays beyond a fairly thick but thin lined NB logo and “flames” over the lateral toe area. I assume it is functional as well as a design and branding element as the front hold for such a thin unstructured upper is excellent. There is no bootie tongue just a dense thin engineered mesh with an intricate somewhat random looking pattern of different densities of knit that are only seen looking closely at the upper. On the foot the details disappear and create a generally non monolithic sort or organic look,

Sally: I had no expectations whatsoever when this shoe showed up for testing, not knowing what type of run or runner it was designed for. Curious, I slipped it on and found an incredibly comfortable, true to size fit that seemed soft but somehow not at all marshmallowy underfoot. I was eager to take these good looking shoes on a test run. FIrst run out and I fell in love! I thought my Garmin was playing tricks on me, but no, my pace was definitely faster than usual with no more effort than usual. My typical training runs (currently in a Boston Marathon training cycle) average 8:05 - 8:15 pace, but I did an “easy” 11 mile run and was delightfully amazed to see an average pace of 7:58! 


Jacob: The TC upper is composed of a thin, soft, semi-transparent, and highly breathable mesh. The mesh is white with a subtle patterning and an overlay of matte black support around the heel collar and eyelets—a polished look. The upper is unstructured and overall quite floppy. There is light structure around the toe to raise the toebox mesh high. The tongue is thin and race-weight with large ventilation holes. Due to the thinness I’ve had some minimal issues with lace bite and it takes a bit of effort to get the lacing right before a run. However, the stretchy flat laces are fairly forgiving as well as thoughtfully designed with reflective stitching and silver aglets—professional. They tighten easily and hold well.

The upper feels light on the foot and sizing and comfort are both excellent. New Balance has been spot-on with the fit of all their recent shoes (from what I’ve tried, the Beacon v2, Fuelcell Propel, Tempo, and now the TC), providing good security (especially heel hold) as well as a seamlessly comfortable experience. The only notable weakness of the TC upper is that the forefoot hold is a bit loose. Especially with the high stack it’s a bit of a conscious effort to stay on top of the midsole when cornering at speed. For most runs, this isn’t a large issue and I like the feeling of openness. For those with low volume feet, it could be an issue, at least if you’re planning to race in them. Those with higher volume feet will really appreciate the space. 

Peter: As I mentioned above, the TC is a little roomy feeling for a racing flat, but oh so comfortable for a trainer or long-run shoe. The only real issue I have with the upper is the tongue. It’s a paper thin tongue that has a tendency to slide down the foot a bit. 
I’ll say that this has gotten less problematic the more I’ve run in the shoe--but I do wish they had found a way to keep the tongue in place. I’ve experienced a little bit of pressure from laces from tying them tight to lock my foot down. Overall the upper works great, but it takes a little bit of work to get it where you need it. 
Derek: The upper is very thin and breathable. I think what makes it work so well is that the shoe is on the higher volume side but yet because the upper does not stretch, you can tune to lock down to your foot shape very easily. Yes the toe box volume is on the higher side for a racer, but I think as a lightweight trainer it works fine, and gives you more options in terms of sock thickness. The rearward sweep of the heel collar is a non-issue as there is zero heel slippage with this shoe even with minimal lace tension. Overall, I’d say the upper just disappears and isn’t something I think about at all when I run in this shoe. My only knock on it is I sort of wished it had a more racier feel to the colour. 

Jeff: Jacob broke down the upper very well, and I’d agree with everyone - the upper is great. It doesn’t have a fantastic race-appropriate lockdown, but it holds the foot just fine. The material is incredibly breathable, and even though my pair was a half-size large, I didn’t have any heel slip issues. I’ve run in a number of the flared “Elf heel” designed shoes from various manufacturers recently (Nike Peg Turbo, New Balance Beacon and 1080v10) and none of them gave me any problems, but the extra high nature of the TC gave me some irritation. Not enough to cause blisters, but the geometry just felt slightly off.
Sam: A great fitting upper for me. Very solid heel lock down from a full heel counter and relatively stiff achilles collar both of which aren’t noticed beyond they work and really well. The rest of the thin breathable but dense weave is totally unstructured beyond the toe area NB overlay. As a training and long race upper it is sensational, as a workouts short race upper it is very close to race fit but then veers toward training comfort as you move to the toe box from the heel through the use of that thin mesh and no overlays,. Overall for me it works better than the relatively loose Propel upper.

Sally: The others have summarized the upper very well. It works well for me, only slightly roomy  in the toe box on my narrow feet. Initially the top of the unpadded tongue dug in at the top of the laces for me, but gradually that resolved itself as I put more miles on and figured out the correct lace tension. This upper works great on a long training run,  but I would like the foothold to be a bit more snug for a racer (yep, once you go to the dark side and race in the Next %, nothing quite matches up - yet).
The sockliner has a very cool heat map design in  the toe area, Note also how translucent and breathable the upper is.

Jacob: The TC uses New Balance’s FuelCell midsole, a new foam refreshed for 2019. FuelCell is much softer and dramatically higher rebound than New Balance’s historically firm Fresh Foam and Revlite midsoles. The FuelCell in the TC is one of the softest midsoles I’ve experienced, notably softer (to the touch even) than the FuelCell in the Propel (one of my top trainers of 2019). If I’m standing around and lean all my weight to my heels I sink down dramatically, again very reminiscent of the 4% and NEXT%. Also similarly to these soft-foam Nikes, the TC midsole develops notable creases in the sidewalls from high-compression.
Creases in the midsole after 55mi

Though soft, the TC midsole is energetic and not mushy. The effect of the full-carbon plate is unmistakable in helping direct the rebound and energy forward, bouncing you into the next stride. Given the sometimes hard to lock-in ride of the lower-stack, flexible Propel, the amount of softer FuelCell foam in the TC without the plate would unstable and hard to control. With the plate, though, it’s a blast.

The TC is not heavily rockered, even with the plate geometry, and there isn’t a strong falling-forward feeling when leaning onto my toes. When standing around it feels high off the ground and as I noted in my first impressions, the ‘floating’ sensation from the high and soft heel is a bit unstable. Once on the run these extreme characteristics become more mellow, meshing together to contribute to a consistent and fun ride, and the shoe is such a smooth cruiser.

The midsole also shines iridescent pink when the light hits it right—really sweet.

Peter: FuelCell is one of the better new foams. I liked it a lot in the Rebel and the Propel, and it gets even better here. It’s so, so, so soft (especially in the heel as Jacob points out), but never mushy--and the energy return is top notch. The NB team has clearly found a balance of having a super soft foam and making it manageable with a carbon-fiber plate. The midsole feels good at any pace--and has been feeling better with each run. 

Sally: It was love at first run, but I am liking the midsole even more after 50 plus miles in the shoe. Seems so soft to the touch, but doesn’t feel soft on the run. A joy to run in!  I love Jacob’s description of this shoe as a fast cruiser.

Derek: FuelCell seems to be a highly versatile foam and it feels so different in different shoes, between the Rebel, Propel, and now the TC. It is very bouncy in the TC, and is by far the most lively foam I’ve ever tried from NB so kudos to them. It’s hard to discern how the carbon plate comes into this. Yes there shoe is snappy and fairly stiff but it’s not very noticeable compared to the Vaporfly, or even the Hoka Carbon X.

Jeff: This is one of the softest midsoles on the market currently, but it doesn’t ever feel mushy. The carbon plate helps it up front, and keeps it borderline springy, but the heel has lots of sink-in. This isn’t the shoe that you wear to the gym, work out, and wear home. The heel sink when standing/walking is pronounced, but nothing during the run (aka when it matters). You aren’t on the ground long enough to notice. 

Sam: I am not sure I would call it the softest midsole feel out there now, the Nimbus Lite and Skechers Max Road 4 take those prizes for me. You may notice I said midsole feel as while the FuelCell foam is super soft and very bouncy, the relatively broad platform on the ground, the addition of the plate and that full coverage front outsole combine to make the softness a key component of a great riding shoe and not the defining characteristic I agree with the others that walking around there is heel sink so when trying these on in store be aware of that. Once on the run that disappears in that, on impact, as in the Vaporfly, foam compression meets plate and then off you go! . While the 10mm drop adds to rear and overall weight but in this case I think it is justified but do wish the foam itself was lighter to reduce weight. 
I will say here the heel is far more stable than the original Vaporfly and for sure somewhat more stable than the improved landing of the Next%. Back to those other soft shoes the Nimbus Lite and Max Road. Neither has a plate, both are very flexible and their outsoles are far softer and far more segmented/profiled and not contributing to overall stability as the outsole does here

Jacob: The TC outsole is composed of three pieces of medium-softness rubber: two smaller pieces on the heel and large piece covering the entire forefoot. Coverage is fairly comprehensive with only a bit of exposed midsole in the midfoot to the center of the heel. I was surprised by the full coverage in the forefoot as rubber adds weight and this is a shoe with high race potential—it’s not something I’m used to seeing in a racer. Aside from the weight (which is likely minimal), the rubber grips clean pavement well and it’s softness is well balanced—responsive and fast-feeling but smooth riding and not loud or slappy. The outsole appears to be durable as my pair shows almost no signs of wear after 55 miles.

The entire bottom of the TC is textured with slightly curving lines which continue up the sides of the midsole. There is also a modern, streaking “NB” logo on the bottom, a nice touch. It’s a great looking shoe.
Derek: I’ve not had that much mileage in the shoe yet, and while the rubber coverage is fairly thin especially in the heel, durability looks ok so far. Grip wise, the forefoot grip is solid, but i found the heel a little slippery on wet surfaces. Fortunately I do not spend a lot of time on the heels in this shoe.

Peter: After the griplessness of the FuelCell Rebel, the TC is a welcome return to steady rubber meets the road grip. I’m about 50 miles in with no appreciable outsole wear and have run on some wet roads with no problem. 
Jeff: The massive rubber up front is very firm, but I think that helps the shoe’s ride - and definitely helps with outsole wear. 
I have 45 miles in my pair, and virtually zero wear - even in the central areas with exposed midsole. I’ve run mostly road, a little bit of groomed trail, and one treadmill session, and the TC has been great on all of it. I’m planning on racking on a number of miles in this shoe and I’m really curious what they’ll look like with 200 miles on them. I’m betting they’ll hold up well.
Sam: The guys have described the outsole well. I feel the front rubber matches the firmness of rest of the forefoot area well and somehow the combination of midsole, plate, and outsole there is seamless in feel and firmness.

 I note that the rear rubber curls up around the heel which likely is a clever way to stabilize the soft soft foam above and keeps the heel from over compressing on landing before forces meet the plate above. So despite the soft feel no sense of lingering at the heel with the 10mm drop also assisting in moving forward. Again a clever well thought out combination of features and materials.

Jacob: As expected from a shoe with a soft and bouncy superfoam and a carbon plate, the TC ride is smooth, fast, and fun. They are not heavily rockered but are energetic and easy to run in. The huge stack of FuelCell foam feels incredibly soft and squishy underfoot, especially in the heel, which makes it a beast on the downhills and able to go any distance.
On my first run the ride was immediately reminiscent of the 4%/NEXT% and unlike really anything else. The TC has a super-smooth, effortless feeling ride and is easy to run fast in with low effort. However, it doesn’t quite feel like a racer due to its more plush feel, trainer-class weight, wide toebox, and overall loose upper. Similarly, there is minimal rocker and toe-off isn’t snappy, though it is consistent.

I’ve done a variety of runs in the TC including short, hard hill reps, threshold blocks, double-digit cruisers (longest 17mi), and recovery runs. I’ve had no issues or significant complaints (forefoot hold being the only negative) at any pace and have really enjoyed every run in them. When running in the TC it’s always apparent that there’s something special underfoot—the bouncy softness and the effortless feel are dramatic and the ride is so smooth. In both the recovery runs I’ve used them for (8-9mi straight easy) my pace ended up quite a bit faster than I’d expect given my legs were tired and my heart rate and perceived effort were very low.
Derek: I think I’m in the minority here. The shoe is bouncy and really nice at daily trainer paces. There is plenty of vibration attenuation and actually very little ground feel, but I struggle to hold faster paces in the shoe, e.g. marathon pace. I kind of top out at around 7:00/mile pace as the sweet spot for this shoe, and if i try to force the pace higher, the weight of the shoe becomes a bit more noticeable. The milder rocker also makes the shoe slower to transition compared to e.g. a Zoom Fly Flyknit, I think a heavy heel striker may find the flatter feel of the shoe hindering since the very soft heel will really give you a negative heel-toe drop type of feel. In terms of effort/heart-rate, I think the benefit is fairly similar to e.g. Nike Zoom Fly, BUT, and it’s a big BUT, the amount of underfoot cushioning and vibration dampening is boatloads better in the FuelCell TC compared to any Zoom Fly model. 
The The shoe is fun to run in, but maybe not so great for race efforts for me. Another thing I want to point out is the overall balance of the shoe. This shoe has a very minimalist thin upper, and the midsole is maximalist. The result of this is that there is a very slight feeling of the shoe being somewhat bottom-heavy. Not so extreme like as the Saucony Freedom v1, but maybe a bit more like a Zoom Fly Flyknit. In fact i think part of this bottom heavy feeling is contributing to the psychological feeling of lugging a bit of excess weight around during maximum heel lift in the shoe, at faster paces. I will be the first to admit that shoe weight has very little impact on performance on its own. My marathon PB of 2:41 was set in the Zoom Fly v1, which is almost 9oz in weight. Put it this way, i think it feels easier to sprint in the Pegasus 36 than in the FuelCell TC. 

Peter: The ride of the TC has really grown on me. I liked them pretty well on their maiden voyage--but it was a speed workout and I found it hard to turn them over super fast. I did a couple of easy runs and they felt great--but just as I was about to conclude that the TC is a great easy day shoe I did another workout and changed my mind. I did a workout at marathon goal pace for 4 miles and progressing to half marathon pace and the TC just ROCKED. They were amazing at marathon goal pace. I’d easily race a marathon in them. They’re a little heavy for actually racing a half for me, but they performed admirably for a workout at half pace. 
So, how to describe the ride? Well, they are bouncy and soft like the OG Vaporfly, but feel a bit more stable overall. They are forgiving and cush on easy runs and they actually give a ton of energy return as you go faster. I’ve found them to break in really well and they’ve felt better run to run. 

Jeff: I kind of agree with Jacob, Derek, and Peter here. It is easy to see the similarities to the Next%, though with much more stability (not a huge surprise with a midfoot that’s nearly 2 CM wider) and a much more mild springy toe-off. A more pronounced rocker (or more pronounced carbon plate) might make it a faster shoe, but as it is, the TC is very easy to live with. They remind me of the old adage of Porsche vs Ferrari. Porsche is a hair slower around the track, but you could take on a weekend trip. Ferrari is slightly faster on the track, but you only want to take around the block. 
Sam: A delightful ride here combining a softer bouncy feel with the stability and propulsion provided by the plate and that broad forefoot coverage. The TC is just plain fun to run at most all paces with its sweet spot for me at about the pace shown in the Strava above, about what I have qualified for Boston with most recently. The run was at 6500 feet altitude about 2000 meters with quite a few hills and strong winds and is as fast as I have ever trained that loop in Park City and it was easy until the last uphill mile! 

The miles just roll along here with big smiles. The rocker is not as accentuated as the OG Vaporfly and is closer to the Next% but with a touch less of a flat feel and certainly less of a flat feel than the Carbon X which is also less bouncy. This is the first carbon plated shoe where despite the softness of the midsole I just don’t “notice” or feel the plate yet can clearly feel its propulsive effect. The weight is there but not really noticed. I don’t find them particularly bottom heavy at faster paces and actually am surprised they weigh over 9 ounces in a size 9.  Is the FuelCell foam Zoom X with its silky rebound and super light weight? No it is not but for training and for racing (and I will race them soon) it is far superior to say Nike React foam or Carbon X’s EVA when you bring in the geometry, plate, and outsole design. I think they set a new standard for overall effectiveness and smooth comfortable ride that is rockered, soft but balanced in overall ride feel and without the more radical edges and stability issues of say the Vaporfly Next% and especially the competing and awkward to run, and consistently so for me Zoom Fly 1, 2 and 3.  

Sally: I can’t say enough about the fun ride of this shoe! The others have all said it well: stable, soft bounce with fantastic energy return and propulsion. Interesting that we all seem to find this shoe performs best at our marathon paces, which for me was 7:58 in recent NYC Marathon.

Conclusions and Recommendations
The TC is a polished shoe with a top-class ride. It employs all the newest tech—an airy high-rebound foam and a full-length carbon plate—is comfortable and forgiving, and provides an effortless feel on the run. The TC is a great addition to the FuelCell line and continues New Balance’s progression in the industry.

From unboxing to first run it was clear the TC was a potential Vaporfly competitor, but after several runs and some A/B testing, it is apparent that it’s not intended to be just a racing shoe. The TC has more noticeable cushioning, more outsole coverage, a looser fit (borderline sloppy in the forefoot), higher weight, and less rocker than I’d expect from a racer. These characteristics make it more conducive to all types of runs, a do-it-all trainer/racer. I love it for cruising long runs, which is how I use the Carbon X as well. The TC is undoubtedly fast and if for those who haven’t run in the Vaporfly it will feel like magic—it’s a similar effect. However, the TC runs well at slower paces* and doesn’t feel like it’s trying to get me to run faster. Overall, I think the TC could work for anyone and could fill a variety of roles, including racing, always providing a smooth ride and enjoyable experience on the run. It’s already becoming one of my favorite shoes of all time.

* My recovery run pace was still 7:40min/mi (though it would have been 20s/mi slower in many other shoes), which may be relevant as some shoes (ASICS EvoRide comes to mind) can perform best above a certain ‘absolute pace’. It’s possible my recovery pace is already in the sweet spot.
Jacob’s Score: 9.32 /10
Ride: 10 (50%) Fit: 8.5 (30%) Value: 8.5 (15%) Style 10 (5%)

I feel that this shoe would work great for most people who are more partial to a midfoot strike pattern, and maybe especially for heavier runners who may not notice the bottom heavy feel of the shoe as much. As is, i think it really works better as a lightweight to daily trainer, rather than a race day option. I know plenty of people who use the Zoom Fly as a daily trainer, and the FuelCell TC will serve just as well if not better, especially for longer runs. The fit is great and very easy to dial in, and the relatively generous shoe volume should make it a great option for many foot shapes. I’d be lying if i said i wasn’t a tiny bit disappointed with the shoe, mainly because i was expecting a race day option rather than a lightweight trainer. As a trainer it scores very high, maybe higher than all other daily trainers on the market at the moment, but as a race day option, i think the weight lets the shoe down a bit. I also think NB could have gone with a more aggressive drop in the shoe, because the soft heel makes the shoe feel like a low drop shoe. My score below is based on its assessment as a trainer rather than a racer.
Derek’s Score: 9.15
Ride 40% 9 Fit 40% 10 Value 10% 7.5 Style 10% 8 

I’ve grown more and more fond of the TC. It’s a great feeling show for pretty much any pace and any runner. I had to re-frame how I was thinking about it in order to fall in love. When I think of it as a race shoe, I’m kind of bummed out that it’s so heavy and that the fit of the shoe is overall pretty relaxed. If I think about it as an all around trainer/racer I love it. It’s a great ride, brings smiles to the miles and goes fast too. New Balance has made a great looking, fun shoe that brings the best aspects of the new foams in a  good all around package
Peter’s Score 9.5 /10 
minus a couple of ticks for weight and slightly sloppy fit. 

It is a very fun shoe to run in, but it is the most perplexing shoe I’ve ever worn. My fastest miles in it were ~7:30 and my slowest were ~10:15, and they felt great across all of it - so I’m not sure where I would recommend it. It doesn’t feel nearly as heavy as the scale would say, but I could see where sub-6:00 miles could feel awkward in it. There has been lots of conjecture if slower runners would benefit from faster shoes like the Next% or the upcoming AlphaFly, and I think the TC is a great all-purpose shoe for slower runners - though perhaps not heel strikers. This heel is super soft, and I could see that getting in the way, but if you land mid-to-forefoot, you’ve got zero concerns. Long easy runs or speedwork, the TC would be great. Meanwhile faster runners would likely enjoy them for faster long runs, as the shoe gives incredible protection and doesn’t sacrifice any speed for it.
Jeff’s Score: 9.1/10
Ride: 10 (50%) Fit: 8 (30%) Value: 8 (15%) Style: 10 (5%)

Back to my introduction.. The TC is called out as the “training companion” to.. its much lighter “race companion” the RC coming 3/24. Makes sense as the TC is a fantastic faster paces trainer with a great ride combining softness and decisive but not radical propulsion with plenty of stability and not “felt” carbon plate. It represents in a sense a 2nd generation of plated and otherwise “super foam” shoes with its more conventional ride feel and it’s a super smooth and pleasant one in a shoe built with totally state of the art materials. Forget the weight for a sec, I I barely noticed it but is there and my only ding is for weight and the price. A full ounce lighter would perfect the TC. It is a great choice as a single faster shoe in the quiver for long runs, long races, and decently fast tempo work required by marathon and half training not to speak of racing half and above for me. Bottom line for me the most pleasant and exciting ride of 2020 so far and I would say since the Next% so far for me although the year is young and more is coming for sure!
Sam’s Score: 9.5 /10
I deduct for weight and pricing, an ounce lighter and in line in price with shoes such as the Carbon X, Zoom Fly and upcoming Endorphin Speed and TC would be yet finer. While state of the art top to bottom with a great ride,  given weight I think pricing is on the high side.

Now that we know that this was designed to be a training shoe and not a race day shoe, I can confidently say I LOVE IT. It is an absolute joy to run in, and your feet will be comfortable and happy over the course of a long run. Your confidence will soar as your pace quickens. Shave some weight and snug up the fit of the forefoot, and this plated soft foam shoe would be a fantastic marathon day race shoe. But wait, does NB have another introduction up their sleeve?
Sally’s score: 9.6 / 10.0
Ride: 10 (50%)  Fit: 9.5 (30%). Value: 9 (15%)  Style: 10 (5%)

19 Comparisons 
Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

New Balance FuelCell Propel (RTR Review)
Peter: Size 11 in both. Propel feels much more like a traditional trainer (a good one with a good new foam), but the TC feels like a new school, new foam jam. The Propel is a great version of the old school and the TC is a great version of the new school.

Jacob: The Propel is more plush and comfortable as well as much more flexible. I’ve put a decent bit of mileage in the Propel and often felt they are a bit hard to run consistently in because of how soft and flexible they are whereas the plated-controlled TC is super smooth and easy to run in. The Propel is a fun shoe and a good daily trainer but the TC is on another level in terms of speed potential and ride. I like having both but would pick the TC for longer or faster runs. It’s a more polished and versatile shoe but also much more expensive. Both fit true-to-size.

Sam: I liked the Propel but it was soft and somewhat sloppy from upper to its unplaced midsole in comparison to TC and it weighs a mere 0.15 oz or so less but is far lighter on the wallet at $110 . The Propel has a 6mm drop vs 10mm for the TC. The TC is superior in all respects for every use except maybe very easy days for most and there I actually personally tend to prefer a more stable shoe. Wait isn’t that the TC?

New Balance FuelCell Rebel (RTR Review)
Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes, and both have fairly similar fit, except that the Rebel upper is stretchier and the lock down is achieved through the midsole reinforced stitching, while the TC has no obvious overlays but a fixed inelastic mesh material. I find the TC easier to dial in the lace tension and is definitely more secure. The Rebel is over 2oz lighter in my size, and there’s no question i prefer (and have used, alot) the Rebel for short track workouts. The TC is more of a lively cruiser by comparison, more bouncy and more cushioned. They are very different shoes!

Peter: Size 11 in both. Rebel is similarly fun, but not as unique as the TC. Grip on the Rebel was tough--i raced on wet streets in the Rebel and was slip-sliding away.  

Jeff: Both fit true-to-size. Not hard to see the similar shape in both shoes, but ultimately they’re good complements to each other than competition. The Rebel is faster for shorter distances, while the TC has much more staying power. I’m not sure I’d wear the Rebel for a half marathon, and I’d run 20+ miles in the TC without concern. Rebel for speedwork, TC for everything else.

New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v10 (RTR Review)
Peter: Size 11 in both. The 1080 V 10 is as good a recovery and easy run shoe as I have. It’s pretty traditional but has a lot of cushion and a surprising amount of bounce. I wouldn’t race in the 1080 though, and I would definitely consider longer races in the TC.

Jeff: Both fit true-to-size. In the left/right comparison, the 1080v10 feels flat and lifeless - and when you take it out for a run it’s anything but. The latest iteration of FuelCell in the TC is an incredible midsole. Even though the 1080v10 upper does a better job than the TC, the midsole in the TC is streets ahead. If you want a do-everything trainer from New Balance, take the TC.

Sam: I was not a huge fan of the 1080v10. Traditional in ride and fairly firm it is comparatively lifeless in comparison. True to size in both I found the 1080v10 more stretchy and thicker knit toe box more constricting and not as comfortable.

Saucony Endorphin Pro (RTR Review) and Endorphin Speed (RTR Review)
Sam: While the Pro has a carbon plate and comparable price to the TC I find the Speed with its more relaxed heel feel and softer cushion is as a result closer to the Fuel Cell TC than the Pro. The TC is considerably heavier than either but is in some ways more dynamic in ride than the Speed as it has a bouncier heel and front carbon impulse while at the same time being less harsh overall than the Pro, which for a racer is remarkably cushioned and forgiving. The Speed toe box is somewhat more secure and its upper more comfortable and overall more secure for me. Speed and TC are both outstanding trainer racers with the Speed leaning more race and the TC leaning more training. If I was to pick one trainer racer despite weight difference I would lean TC over Speed as despite weight it is more versatile and more fun to run.
New Balance Fresh Foam Beacon  (RTR Review)
Derek: I wear US9.5 for both shoes. I only ever tried the Beacon v1 so take that into consideration. I found the Beacon’s midsole somewhat dead at my weight and no matter the pace, it was fairly well cushioned and had good vibration dampening, but lacked the bounce that i have now grown addicted to in modern trainers. The TC has that lively bounce that sets it apart.

Peter: The Beacon V2 fell flat for me. I want to like it more than I do. It’s good, but doesn’t have that special something. The TC has that special something.

Jeff: Both fit true-to-size. The Beacon 2 is lighter and cheaper, the TC is just better. Spend the money, get the TC.

Jacob: Both are good trainer/racers but the TC is on another level with it’s fun, bouncy, high energy-return midsole compared to the Beacon’s fairly firm EVA. It’s faster and more enjoyable to run in for me by a lot. 

Sam: The lighter weight of the Beacon isn’t “everything”. Its midsole is as Derek says kind of dead and lifeless in comparison with a heel that tends to compress to far for me in comparison . I agree with Jeff while Beacon is lighter and much less expensive the TC is just plain better and way more fun to run.

Hoka Carbon X (RTR Review)
Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. The Hoka Carbon X actually feels quite firm in comparison, but is also a lot easier to maintain a faster pace, perhaps because the shoe is lighter and lower to the ground. I would choose the Carbon X for racing and the Fuelcell TC for training.

Peter: size 11 all around. The Carbon X was really hard for me to run in. They were so stiff I felt like I was working hard just to get through toe-off. The NB FuelCell TC on the other hand are EASY to run in. 

Jeff: Both fit true-to-size. The closest comparison, these are both racer/trainer hybrids with lots of cushioning and a carbon plate. But the best part of the Hoka is its geometry, that keeps you moving forward, while the midsole material is the magic for the TC. The Hoka upper holds the foot better, but doesn’t give the same amount of room in the toebox that the New Balance does. No question, I like the New Balance approach more.

Jacob: I gave the Carbon X/TC A/B a shot. Even from just lacing them up the Carbon X is strikingly different than the TC. The TC is much bouncier, softer, and feels higher stack than the Carbon X. It's less stable and more "ridiculous" (and fun) of a ride whereas I find the Carbon X a stable, controlled cruiser. The rocker is also minimal on the TC whereas I feel like that's a large part of the smoothness of the Carbon X ride. The comfort of the TC is also better as it is more accommodating and softer. Both fit true-to-size. I’d pick the TC unless you specifically want a firmer or rockered ride.

Sam: The Carbon X plate is felt and while it is super broad and stable there is a livelier more dynamic and not as flat feel to the TC except at very final toe off where the Carbon X plate keeps the toes up noticeably and effectively a bit better. Both slot into the cruiser category and can also for sure be raced. I am true to size in both. The Carbon X upper is crude in comparison with not as secure a heel hold as there is no heel counter as in the TC with the foot sitting down in midsole in the Carbon X. The full heel counter likely adds to TC’s weigh,t but only slightly in the end as the Carbon X is only 0.4 oz or so lighter at 8.8 oz. The Carbon X is slightly more versatile as it runs slow for me better than TC while both shine at marathon pace or so. I give the nod to the TC as the ride is more dynamic, bouncier and less flat feeling with more heel cushion and with the plate less noticed at the heel due to the higher drop of the TC vs.10mm vs 5mm for Carbon X,

Nike Zoom Fly 2 & 3 (RTR Review)
Derek: I wear US9.5 in The ZF2, and US9.0 in the ZF3, and US9.5 in the Fuelcell TC. The ZF2 has the best rocker and forward roll of the 3, followed by the ZF3, and finally the Fuelcell TC. The degree of cushioning is in reverse order with the Fuelcell having the most cushioning. The Fuelcell TC has the best fitting upper for me, and the Nike’s fit is always a bit of compromise here and there, but underfoot, i think as an uptempo shoe the ZF2 still stands out for its ease of transition, especially at marathon pace or faster. If i were looking for a daily trainer with an emphasis on marathon training and long runs at medium effort, the Fuelcell TC would be my first choice, but if you want something for speedwork as well, then the choices become murkier as the ZF range has better speed performance but less cushioning.

Jacob: I did a brief A/B test with the Zoom Fly Flyknit (2). The React foam in the Zoom Fly felt so much more dense and firm that I could not comfortably run this A/B. I felt like the Zoom Fly was high-stack, soft and springy, but in comparison to the TC they are firm and more traditional. The Zoom Fly and TC are very similar in weight and both fall in the category of trainer/racer. Both are fast and easy to run in. The Zoom Fly is snappier and the fit is more race-like, too narrow for many. The TC is more plush and comfortable. They’re both great shoes with different rides, I like the TC for slower and longer runs and the Zoom Fly for shorter speed work.

Sam: I have never cared for any version of the Zoom Fly much. From quite firm in v1 to very unstable and harsh at the heel in v2 to yet more stack in v3 of comparatively dull React, all of them I find hard to run consistently and got unstable when I tired. Hands down TC here. 

Sally: I loved the Zoom Fly 2 Flyknit, but neglected to size up to W8.5 in it, so couldn’t run long. I have wanted to like the Zoom Fly 3, but the upper is very problematic for my foot, even though I like the ride. The TC hands down.

Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% (OG VF RTR Review), 
Derek: I wear US9.5 for both shoes. Unfortunately i think the 4% wins in all areas with the exception perhaps in terms of heel cushioning, and forefoot grip performance. The 4% forward roll and forefoot cushioning is still the most dynamic and game-changing shoe I have ever tried. If durability is not a concern, no question i would go with the 4% any day.

Peter: same size in both. The Vaporfly are lighter and easier to run fast in. The TC are more stable. I’d race the 4% but train the TC. 

Jeff: Both fit true-to-size for OG VF%, half-size up for Flyknit 4%. The Vaporfly platform seems like the pre-release version compared to what is out today. The ZoomX midsole is incredibly soft and unstable in the heel to midfoot, then the carbon fiber plate (and wider base) in the forefoot gives the shoe a more stable platform. For racing, the Vaporfly is the gold standard (or was until the Next% was released), but it has some caveats. The midfoot is so narrow that runners with wide feet were excluded, and even runners with flat feet can’t wear them without pain. The TC is on the opposite end of the spectrum, where narrow footed runners may experience problems, and while they don’t have the same lightweight pop as the VF, they have plenty more durability. Heavier, slower, wide footed, or flat footed runners should go TC, same with runners looking for a trainer and racer. Fast runners who want a dedicated race shoe should go VF.

Jacob: I did an 8-mile run in the TC and as soon as I got back did an A/B test with the 4% Flyknit. The difference in fit is significant with the 4% being more snug, precise, and minimal around the heel.  I thought the fit of the TC was great during my 8-mile run prior to the A/B test but as soon as I put the 4% on the other foot I felt like the TC was way too loose and sloppy--very interesting The 4% is less structured overall and it feels like there’s less foam beneath the foot. It’s a racier fit and feel. This A/B confirmed that the TC is not a racer. It’s fast and has a very similar soft and smooth ride to the 4%, but it doesn’t have the 4%’s race-fit or dialed-in midsole feel. I like both these shoes a lot; TC for training, 4% for racing.

Sam: The original original baby blue VF approaches the softness of the TC but its plate is much more noticeable from heel to toe than in the TC and it has that distinctive drop from mid foot to forefoot plate toe off I like so much. Later VF with Flyknit were not only much snugger for me than the original but firmer with less toe off magic. As far as use comparisons, the TC is clearly a better training choice than Vaporfly and I agree with Derek that for runners at my pace (7:30min/ miles in a half), or faster, the VF and especially the very original is a better racing choice. I was true to size if a bit large in original VF, could have sized up a half in Flyknit versions and perfect true to size in TC if a bit short. 

Sally: I have run both the OG 4% (Obsidian Blue) and the Flyknit 4% (Crimson ie Orange), both half size up to M7.0/W8.5). I need to wear heavy socks to hold my forefoot snug in them. The TC is true to size (W8) for  me, with a slightly (but not sloppy) loose fit in forefoot that is fine for training. I think of these as different purposed shoes: Train in TC, race in 4%

Nike Vaporfly Next%  (RTR Review)
Derek: I wear US9.5 both shoes. The Next% has a slightly softer, more dynamic bouncy forefoot, but a firmer heel than the Fuelcell TC. With the weight differential thrown in, it’s hard not to choose the Next% for any sort of run, if durability is not a big concern.

Peter: 11 both shoes. The next % kind of tire out my forefoot. I ran them last week and it was meh, the TC was fun. I’d go TC--and let the hate mail flow. 

Jeff: Next% half-size up 11, TC true-to-size. The Next% is everything the 4% is with a little more accomodating fit and even more of a springy toe-off. I raced them for one failed marathon last year (don’t run humid marathons while on antibiotics or you end up in the ER), and a number of 15-20 mile training runs. The Next% has an exaggerated toe off compared to the TC, with similar levels of cushioning, and somehow three less ounces of heft. But the TC is the shoe I want for runs every day, while the Next% is for rare cases. I wouldn’t make the Next% a daily trainer, but I would consider the TC for a race - ultimately two similar but very different shoes.

Jacob: The TC and NEXT% are relatively similar in that they are fast, high-stack, soft, bouncy, and fun to run in. The midsoles are overall similar but the TC’s FuelCell is even softer than the ZoomX in the NEXT%. The fit of the TC especially in the forefoot is much more accommodating. I don’t find the NEXT% to be too narrow at all but it is definitely lower volume, which is better for racing and I prefer the more precise fit of the NEXT% overall. As for ride, the TC has much less pronounced roll-off the toe and less rocker. In the NEXT% when I’m just standing around even and I lean forward and immediately roll onto my toes—there’s none of that in the TC. I think they’re both amazing shoes but the the NEXT% is more polished overall: a bit firmer and more controlled, snappier, and more precise. I’d definitely pick it over the TC for racing. However, the TC’s accommodating fit, as-fun ride (especially at slower paces), and more outsole coverage (likely more durable) make it a great choice as a trainer.

Sam:The amazing Next% has yet more cushion than the prior VF  and while a bit firmer heel than the TC, I think due to relative plate location. For racing at an impossibly light weight of well under 7 oz at 6.5 oz for all the goodness vs 9 oz for the TC, the Next% is the clear race choice. But… if the rumored much lighter version of TC comes race game on! As far as training and overall versatility and ride fun the TC wins. 

Sally: I refer to my bright green Next % as my “magic slippers” and won’t wear anything else for a race of any distance these days… until the next magic footwear comes out? I size up half a size to M7/W8.5 in the Next % (thick sock), TC is true to size W8. If the TC were lighter in weight, more dialed in forefoot fit, and a bit rockered like the Next %, I may have to rethink my race day shoes! Until then, I will train in the TC and race in the Next %.

Skechers Performance Speed Elite  (Initial RTR Review, full review soon)
Peter: Totally different beasts. The Speed Elite is a low to the ground and very firm racing flat, the TC is bouncy daily trainer that can go fast. 

Jacob: I agree with Peter. The Speed Elite is a very firm racing shoe while the TC is a very soft trainer/racer. The Speed Elite is low stack and best for shorter, fast runs, while the TC has a epic level of cushioning and a great long-haul, any-pace cruiser.

Sam: I agree with Peter and Jacob and would add the Speed Elite is a study in contrasts with a nicely soft if lower heel with no plate on landing as TC has  and a very distinctly dynamic if firmer but not harsh toe off from its H shaped winglet plate and light weight. Turnover is clearly faster in the Speed Elite. Much, much lighter at over 3 oz lighter than the TC, the Elite is a state of the art rqce flat with cushion and plate while the TC is a much more cushioned trainer that can easily rqce. I wouldn’t dare race a marathon in the Elite (10K max maybe half) but many will but wouldn’t hesitate to do so in the TC.

Nike Epic React (RTR Review)
Jeff: TC is true-to-size, Epic React is half-size large, standard for me for most Nike. When you consider React hasn’t been out for very long, it really feels long in the tooth compared to the latest iteration of FuelCell. The Epic is lighter, and I think ultimately I like the dialed in fit of the upper more, but the TC midsole is only slightly higher and feels a world apart. Go TC.

Sam: If somewhat lighter I find React dull in comparison and yes as Jacob says “long in the tooth”. Unlike Jacob for training purposes I would pick the simple non stretch more comfortable and less constrictive TC upper any day every day. Flyknit is also long in the tooth given these new single layer engineered mesh uppers as in the TC in fit, comfort, and breathability. While I was true to size in Epic React 1 I could have sized up a half size easily. In Epic React 2 I was also in a true to size with a less suffocating fit especially at mid foot.

Sally: I enjoyed running in the Epic React 1 that first year it was out. I thought it fast and fun and great fitting (I have a narrow foot, and sized up half size in Nike to W8.5). Epic React 2 was very similar, but other shoes were crowding the choices now. I would choose the TC for a fun run any day.

Nike Pegasus Turbo 2 (RTR Review)
Jeff: Both fit true-to-size. Peg Turbo 2 is nearly as soft through the stride, but doesn’t have the same level of forefoot protection that the TC does. Both uppers are breathable, and both midsoles are soft not mushy, but only one I have confidence to run more than 13 miles in - I wouldn’t think of using the Peg Turbo 2 for anything longer than a half marathon. Both great as daily trainers, but the TC is more versatile and much more fun to run in.

On Cloudswift (RTR Review)
Jeff: Both fit true-to-size. The Cloudswift upper is a testament to amazing design and craftsmanship, while the rest of the shoe feels like a project that was designed on “Let the Intern Design a Shoe Day!” Its underwhelming and stiff cushioning paired with awkward geometry combine to be a cautionary tale - while the TC does everything better (except the upper). It isn’t even close, go TC unless you are looking for a shoe to be used exclusively to walk around the mall. But it isn’t 1997 anymore, so that’s incredibly unlikely.

Saucony Freedom 3 (RTR Review)
Jacob: The midsole softness and energetic feel is similar but otherwise they’re very different shoes. The Freedom 3 is very flexible and unstructured while the plate in the TC makes it a locked-in and consistent cruiser. The TC is faster, easier/ effortless to run in, better suited for longer runs, and more fun. I like them both for what they are but the TC is the better shoe. Both fit true-to-size.

Sam: Jacob has it just right. Similar bouncy soft feel much improved with Everun replaced by PWRUN+ but no plate to stabilize and launch the toe off. More work in Freedom.

Sally: As they both said, similar soft feel but different in performance, as the Freedom allows your foot and your stride just that: more freedom. Both TTS W8. I much prefer the stable smoothness of the TC. 

Saucony Endorphin Speed (RTR Preview)
Sam: We are not allowed to post our review before month’s end but imagine a nylon plated similar stack and geometry shoe that weighs 1.4 oz less with a Pebax foam midsole and has a lighter price of $160. I can say it is not as soft overall and is more springy than bouncy in midsole feel with a PEBA midsole (similar but not the same make up as Nike Zoom X). Not quite the deluxe super fun soft underfoot feel of the TC or the carbon snap up front, it does, unlike the TC, have a distinct flex at midfoot, with a touch more rocker feel at end of toe off but lags a bit more before  it has a bootie construction tongue and is slightly roomier and more secure.

Topo Zeyphr  (RTR Review)
Jeff: Both fit true-to-size. While many runners have declared the Zephyr a speedwork only shoe, I’ve found it to be great for virtually all runs, with a firm, but not dead, feel and a nice toe off to go along with Topo’s best upper to date. While its plate isn’t CF, it gives the shoe the same front stability that New Balance’s does. But New Balance went super soft, making the two shoes feel like two very different ways to solve the same problem. If you want a large toe box (and better midfoot lockdown) and you are good with a firm ride, take the Zephyr. If you prefer a borderline plush ride (even during sub-8:00 miles), then the TC is probably your flavor.

Sam: While the Zephyr is mighty fine especially its upper its lower drop, firmer ride just doesn’t work as well with its plate leaving me back on the heels at slower paces and not as happy there as in the TC. When the pace picks up I miss the energetic bounce and smoother transitions of the TC.  

ASICS Nimbus Lite (RTR Review)
Jeff: Both fit true-to-size. The ASICS was a pleasant surprise, with a light and airy upper and incredibly soft (and shockingly non-clunky) midsole. I’d give it the nod if you were looking for an exclusively easy run or recovery shoe, and it has much more walking/standing stability than the TC - so if you want to run to the gym, I’d give the Nimbus Lite the nod. For anything else, the TC is much better.

Sam: a fun soft bouncy shoe which lacks the forefoot stability, front of upper hold  and plate powered pop and smoothness of the TC. A fun shorter distance and recovery shoe for me and a fine one but not the serious and seriously fun ride of the TC.

Sally: Softness is in. I was enjoying the surprisingly fun Nimbus Lite, but then I tried the TC. The soft ride of the Asics aggravated a soft tissue foot injury for me, but somehow the TC does not at all. Both TTS. TC for the fun run, and the win.

ASICS GlideRide (RTR Review)
Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. The GlideRide is one of the very few shoes that is actually softer than the Fuelcell TC, but yet still has a faster rockered feeling. That said, as much as I like the GlideRide for easy and medium effort runs, the Fuelcell TC is just better at holding a medium effort pace. Both are enjoyable and unique riding shoes in their own right. Overall, the Fuelcell TC is a more enjoyable ride for me.

Jeff Both fit true-to-size. I agree with Derek completely. Both are a blast to run in, but the accomplish it in different ways. GlideRide is good, TC is great.

Sam: I would not agree the GlideRide is softer per say in terms of midsole foam but with more stack of foam and only a softer EVA front plate it is more cushioned than TC and with a more distinctive rocker. For me the GlideRide leans more to all purpose daily training on the slower end of the spectrum while the TC towards faster pace efforts. Both are excellent in their own ways with the TC more exciting as fast shoes always are especially when they are also forgivingly so as TC is! 

ASICS EvoRide (RTR Review)
Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. The EvoRide is outclassed here, unfortunately. The Fuelcell TC has the more lively midsole and the unfair advantage of a carbon plate to add that forefoot pop. Both are near identical in weight, with the EvoRide being about 10g lighter, but really, the EvoRide feels a bit more bulky when running. The EvoRide is a fine shoe with a good rockered feel and excellent durability, but the midsole of the Fuelcell TC is just a lot more lively.

Jeff: Both fit true-to-size. The EvoRide has a much firmer ride and dialed in upper, but yeah, Derek nailed it. The TC outclasses it by a country mile. The added cushion, with just as much fast toe-off makes it a much more versatile shoe that’s also better than the EvoRide at what the EvoRide does best - uptempo miles.

Jacob: Both are smooth cruising shoes but the EvoRide is much firmer and its smooth ride propelled by the forefoot rocker. The EvoRide is consistent and solid but the midsole feel is quite conventional in comparison with the massive bouncy stack of the TC. The TC is more fun to run in, better for long runs, has a more comfortable fit, and is faster and easier to run in. The EvoRide is a good shoe but unless you’re looking for a firmer or rockered feel, the TC does everything better. Both fit true-to-size.

Sam: No real contest here. The EvoRide is considerably firmer and for me more limited in utility. It does have a superior similar fitting upper if not one not quite as light and breathable.

Sally: These were the two shoes so far this year that had me smiling when I looked at my watch at the end of a run. But as the others have said, very different shoes. The firmer and rockered lightweight Evo Ride encourages a quick cadence, but the lively TC enables fast and easy and downright fun miles. Both TTS. Hands down TC.

Skechers Performance Ride 8  (RTR Review)
Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. The Ride 8 is a very good daily trainer for its price-point, but the foam in the Fuelcell TC is (surprisingly) even more bouncy than the HyperBurst in the Ride 8. I emphasize this because i find that the HyperBurst behaves slightly differently in the Run 7+, GRR8, Razor 3 and in the Speed 6, at least to me, even though they are all supposed to have the same durometer. I feel that soft foams need ideally a 10mm drop to get the full benefit otherwise if the heel compresses a lot, it compromises the transitioning during the gait cycle, and Skechers’ choice to go with lower drops in general across the board may have affected the transitioning of some of their shoes.

Sam: The Ride 8 is quite stiff, not really rockered or decoupled and has no plate. Ride 8 is not as soft or as bouncy as the TC and lacks the more dynamic overall geometry of plate and rocker. Due  to its lower drop it runs flatter and is more ponderous in toe off feel as the pace picks up. The Ride 8’s is slightly stronger for me as an easy pace shoe but fades in being stiff and harder to transition as the pace picks up. True to size in both with a similar fit although the TC has a lighter feeling more breathable upper. Clear win overall for TC.

Jeff: Both fit true-to-size. The Ride 8 is a solid daily trainer that punches above its weight due to its Hyperburst midsole, but the TC is a rocket ship by comparison. Stack heights feel very close, but the super soft FuelCell paired with CF plate makes for a better ride. I’d give the GRR8 the nod for upper lockdown, but everywhere else, the TC wins.
Watch Sam's 1st Runs Impressions Video from Park City

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Unknown said...

Looks like insta buy being a daily trainer and winning against all comparisons in the article. Thank you very much guys. A perfect Valentine's day gift

Narovly said...

Way too many good shoes coming out! Here I was thinking the Freedom 3 was going to be my next shoe.

Nick said...

Any idea as to the anticipated mileage life this model can handle before it loses its "pop"?

Anonymous said...

Hmmm...this shoe weighs over 9, an easy, long and recovery shoe with a carbon plate? NO, thanks!

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Nick,
Don't know yet but our heavier tester Jeff Beck is going to continue running in a long term test and will be reporting.
Hi Anonymous,
Yes 9 oz but I don't think any of us what would call an easy days recovery shoe only although it can do that. It is a fast, fast but soft shoe where the carbon plate (and outsole) make it pop. And we noted you do not notice the "weight" much if at all. Clearly as noted if it was lighter it would be better yet and 9 oz is "up there" these days, What do you train in now?
Sam, Editor

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Anonymous said...

Hi Sam, each to his own. But I just thought in 2020 with all these so called "super foams" 9 oz for an intended tempo trainer is outright heavy ...
My current daily trainer for easy days, recovery and long runs (30k-ish) is the Reebok Floatride Energy (fantastic daily trainer, imo) and even the Floatride is around 10-15 grams lighter than the NB Fuelcell TC (at least in my size). For workouts and races i use the old school racers Nike Zoom Streak 6/7 (my all-time favourite) and the Adidas Adios (ok, that thing is heavy too for a racer, but it´s a workhorse). Right now i also use the NB Fuelcell Rebel for long HM/Marathon workouts, which i find quite ok, but i won´t buy it again.

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Anonymous,
Thanks for your reply Agree to each his own! I think you would find the TC at least as fast as the Forever Energy and way easier on the legs for daily training. I loved the original adios Boost in its time and couldn't stand the Streaks, ever.. Way to firm and punishing at the heel for this old guy except for 10K where for sure they were fast and I ran them fast. Seems like most all your shoes are on the firmer lower stack side of things which is just fine. You might like the Skechers Speed Elite I just did first impressions on. 5.8 oz and more shoe or close than any above you mention except maybe the Forever Energy and adios but much lighter.
Sam, Editor

Anonymous said...

Yes, i have been eyeing the Skechers Speed Elite, seems to be for me the most viable competitor to the Nike Vaporflys. Last year i also i had a pair of the Nike Zoom Fly 3 in rotation, which seems to be on paper quite similar to the Fuelcell TC with its similar weight and carbon plate. Lots of chunky soft foam and a plate, but when you step on the gas you just notice the weight which is around 9 oz...Even at marathon pace they felt ponderous. It is what it is, but at least for me every shoe under 8 oz will always feels noticably more nimble than one with 9 oz or heavier. However, i did find the Zoom Fly 3 quite nice for easy days and long runs (but the plate was actually too much or useless for these uses). Anyway, keep up the good work on this site, always fantastic reviews!

Unknown said...

NB just announced the FuelCell RC Elite on their Instagram. Should be coming a few weeks after the TC. Can't wait!

Thomas said...

Off topic but do you have any thoughts on the newly announced Adizero Pro? Any ideas when you will be getting some pairs to review?

On topic - These looks really nice but I couldn't bring myself to pay 200 for a training shoe. Not that it matters since the Uk doesn't seem to get a good selection of NB shoes.

BDClark said...

The Gorun Ride 8 ran long for me, I initially ordered a 9.5 and had two thumbs width distance from my longest toe to the tip of the shoe, so I sent it back for a 9. From Derek's notes, it looks like I'll need a 9 in this one as well, right? Thanks as always for the in-depth reviews!

Derek Li said...

Yes. I would get the same size for both these models. If anything the GRR8 is very marginally shorter and narrower than the Fuelcell TC. But bear in mind I don’t think any of the testers found the GRR8 to be long. It is entirely possible your GRR8 size was mis-labeled. Any other shoe models you have to compare sizing?

BDClark said...

@Derek, I've pretty much worn a 9.5 in the GRR7, Maxroad 4, Speed 6 and the Carbon X, and a 9 in GRR8 and GR7. I loved the fit on the Carbon X, but that stiffness was not fun in the hilly half I used them for so back they went. I have Morton's toe, so I don't know if that's contributing to my sizing issues. My feet are also a little wide, so I use straight bar lacing on pretty much everything if possible.

Derek Li said...

This is tricky. I would say the fit is close to the MaxRoad. I would start with a 9.5 in the TC if I were you.

BDClark said...

@Derek, appreciate the help brother, but apparently it's all for naught in my case. My LRS checked with their NB rep and they said they only released a few of these and won't be widely available until 4/1. The apparently dumped a few now to be eligible for the trials. I might give them a shot later on.

innisart said...

How do the TC and 1080v10 compare in fit? NB says the last in the TC is shorter and narrower than in the 1080v10, but I saw that all of you wore the same size in both for your testing. Because of your review, I really want to try the TC, but I'm unsure of what size to order. I'm wearing a 12.5 2E in the 1080v10, but it's a tad too wide (the D width was a tad too narrow, so I'd probably be happiest in an E, if such an animal existed). I don't know if I stick to the 12.5 in the TC, or if I should go up to the 13. Any recommendations?

Anonymous said...

I have to wonder with so many great shoes out and you guys do a wonderful job of comparisons and we all love the content, how would this rank as a long day shoe compared with the Rincon and the Novablast? Worth the extra 60-80 bucks? Rincon may not last as long with the exposed outsole, but plenty light and protective. Novablast also protective, bouncy, and about the same weight as the TC. Point a mediocre runner in the right direction please.

Unknown said...

Great review. Thanks guys. My only concern would be the high counter / heel tab and Achilles irritation. I tried the Propels in January and after only 600m running had bruised my right Achilles so badly that I couldn’t run comfortably for a week and a half. How does the counter / heel tab on the TC compare to the Propel?

Marcel said...

Hey guys, great review! i'd like to support the request for a Novablast comparison. Both seem to be very bouncy and have a similar weight. Of course the Novablast does not have a carbon plate, but is the ride also very different?

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Macel,
The TC is actually about 0.4 oz lighter but $70 heavier in price. They both have a bouncier ride and both are fun. The addition of the carbon plate to the TC makes it more stable and more dynamic. A real joy to run just about any pace.
Sam, Editor

Marcel said...

Hi Sam, thank you for your quick reply - sounds primising:-)

Anonymous said...

I like the thought of this shoe but wonder what experience level is necessary to feel the benefits for that price. I am a 50 yo training to run his first marathon in October. I have done a half several years ago. I would like to train and race in the same shoe. I am running 3+ miles per day, with long runs at 6 miles at close to pace. My NB Boracays are at their end, and I had settled on the Fuel Cell Propel (having run in NB shoes for the last decade +) after also considering the Hoka Carbon and Rincon, but then I saw this stellar review for the TC. Would there be enough benefit to justify the expense of the TC over the Propel, or do you have any other recommendation?